Performance Expectations

Intel revealed some early performance data of Atom comparing it to an ARM11 core and using web page render times as the benchmark of choice:

The performance advantage, at least according to Intel's data, is quite clear. While not depicted here, Intel claims to be around 2x the speed of the ARM CPU in the iPhone which is a significant advantage.

What isn't shown here however is a comparison of power consumption or form factor, both areas that ARM currently holds the advantage in. The fact of the matter is that while Atom today is faster than competing ARM offerings, it plays in a completely different space. ARM based products boast smaller form factors and draw less power.

Intel has consistently made the claim that Atom would offer the performance of the first Pentium M at significantly lower power. We were finally able to put that to the test when Intel shared some preliminary data with us. Under SYSMark 2004, a 1.6GHz Atom is around 20% faster than an 800MHz Pentium M (90nm Dothan). As you can expect, a 900MHz Atom is slower than the 800MHz Pentium M as it needs clock speed to make up for the low IPC of the in-order core.

What's even more impressive is the Atom test platform I saw running. Intel showed me an Atom test motherboard running Windows Vista and Unreal Tournament 2004 at smooth frame rates, without so much as a heatsink on the CPU. The surface of the CPU was around 35C and it did not even need a heatsink.

While I'm still not very positive on the first Atom devices, this was the one live demo that honestly had me impressed. It's been far too long since the days when serious CPUs didn't need heatsinks, and it looks like with Atom - Intel may just be bringing that back.

Lower Power than Centrino The Product Lineup and Centrino Atom
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  • adntaylor - Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - link

    On that chart with price / power, you need to be clearer...

    For price, you show the combined price for CPU + Chipset. For power, you say just the CPU... so 0.65W for the CPU... but you're conveniently ignoring the >2W figure for the chipset!!! This absolutely flatters Intel wherever possible.

    AMD are just as misleading - they describe the Geode LX as "1W" which excludes the non-CPU core parts of the chip (which is an integrated CPU + GMCH)

    Just please be honest - the figures are out there in the Intel datasheets... it takes 10 minutes to check.
    Reply
  • Clauzii - Friday, April 4, 2008 - link

    I still have a PowerVR 4MB addon card, runnung in tandem with a Rage128Pro. Quite a combination w. 15 FPS in Tombraider. Constant(!) 15FPS, that is..

    Amazing what they actually achieved back in 95!
    Reply
  • Clauzii - Friday, April 4, 2008 - link

    Ooops!

    Totally misplaced that. Sorry.
    Reply
  • wimaxltepro - Friday, April 4, 2008 - link

    The Atom represents a shift in processor architecture that is the most dramatic departure for Intel since introduction of x86 processors... the philosophy of how computing itself occurs from centralized processors to distributed processing based on an extension of the popular x86 instruction set.

    The Atom is not about the immediate prospects for the Atom or Nehalem products: we will likely see members of Intel's new product family be used in embedded applications in consumer products and in areas where specialized communications processors are more the rule. While not optimized for use in specific networking applications, the products capitalize on the wide range of support available in IT/Networking to develop common functions that leverage the low cost, low power/processing capability to be used as a common denominator for a wide range of applications.

    Intel has been built on the 'Wintel' architecture: massively integrated chips needed to handle the massively integrated operating systems and applications of Windows (and Apple) environments. The Atom allows migration and broadening out from that architectural motif to a very highly distributed architecture. So, the increased parallelism found in the internal chip architecture is enabling of changes in external system architectures and device applications that go well beyond the typical domain of Intel.. and right into the domain of 'personal wireless broadband' and SDWN, Smart Distributed Wireless broadband Network.

    The decisions about in-order vs. out of-order instruction streams, memory architecture, I/O architecture have been made in light of the broad vision for how computing, networking and, out of hand, how wireless enabled broadband networking including WiMAX will occur. This should be understood for what it represents as a shift in direction for Intel both in response to broad industry shifts and as a trend setting development.
    Reply
  • jtleon - Friday, April 4, 2008 - link

    Thanks to all the flash player ads, etc., a mobile web device will continuously avoid switching to low power states. Thus one could argue that advertising will be carbon footprint enemy of the internet's future. This is already becoming the case for desktop/laptop machines.

    Without such continuous (arguably wasted) consumption of CPU power, then Intel's engineered power management might have a significant impact on the value of the Atom.

    Regards,
    jtleon
    Reply
  • 0WaxMan0 - Friday, April 4, 2008 - link

    I am definatly much impressed and enthused by intels work here, the future looks interesting esp for those of us who like low power cross compatible computing products.

    However I have to point out that a low power modern x86 cpu has allready been done infact 4 years ago with AMD's Geode. While technically much weaker than the Atom and with out any where near the scalability (single core design etc.) the Geode has been available in the same TDP ranges for a good long while. Take a look here http://www.amdboard.com/geode.html">http://www.amdboard.com/geode.html for some old stuff.

    I do hope that the Intel name and hype makes more of an impact than AMD managed.
    Reply
  • whycode - Thursday, April 3, 2008 - link

    Does the TDP quoted include the chipset? Or is that CPU only? Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, April 3, 2008 - link

    Anand, the Pentium M does not feature Macro Ops Fusion. Its Core 2 Duo that started Macro Ops Fusion. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, April 3, 2008 - link

    You're correct, I was referencing micro-op fusion. I've made the appropriate correction :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • squito - Wednesday, April 2, 2008 - link

    Am I the only one shocked to see that Poulsbo is a 130nm part... Reply

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